(May 4, Flashback) On Wednesday before the first performance the Duo Rubin and I had press meetings in Leipzig and Halle. This was an opportunity to meet Georg Meggle personally at last. On Tuesday at 8 p.m. I arrived in Leipzig with a huge suitcase and my guitar. Georg Meggle lives only a couple of bus stops away from the station in a cosy flat with a high ceiling. We had enough to talk about. Since our first contact we had mailed here and there, sometimes I had written a new article or he had news from seminars and the academic world. Meggle analyses social controversies. Where else, if not in the university, shall people discuss such things? For him the issue is straightforward: "The subject TERROR & THE WAR AGAINST IT is shouting not only since September 11, 2001, but since that day with a louder voice, and also in the West, for more rationality. The more the other public opinion-building institutions (...) fail the more responsible is the institution of the university. It belongs to its major tasks to provide orientational support for a perplexed, desinformed public which is increasingly blocked by the fear of terror & counter-terror. This is a payoff which a democracy by right demands from its universities. What is the use of universities, anyway?" (on page 12 of his book).
Before we went to have a sparagus dinner in a bistro opposite his apartment he showed me his office in the new building of the uni. The interior of the building reminded me remotely of the new Library of Alexandria where I had read parts of my upcoming novel "Omega 5" in February. Metal and glass, high ceiling. Yet the library in Alex is more beautiful, more spacy and less angular. Also more woodwork, the architect for the interior came from northern Europe. Because of the grid structure on the sides of the stairway the new university building in Leipzig rather had the touch of a custody kind of place. Georg Meggle fetched some photocopies from his office, among them his introductory speech from his appointment, about the "Meaning of Life". And the draft of a planned chain seminar on Palestine Israel. Meggle originally is from the south of Germany and had already taught in Saarbrücken and in Münster.
He is an analytical philosopher concerned with practical ethics. His master thesis he wrote about the later works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who had been important for me, too. I sensed Wittgenstein rather as an artist and was influenced by him formally, by the way he was thinking, his systematic mind and his style. Regarding the content I rather come from a hermeneutical and cognitive philosophy. Where Wittgenstein says: "The world is everything that is the case", my understanding is: "The world is everything that is conscious or not conscious." Georg Meggle had been a friend of Wittgenstein's disciple and successor on the Cambridge Chair, Georg Henrik von Wright, who had for long years been the president of the Academy of the Sciences in Helsinki and who passed away in March 2003. He was several times on the island of his family, on Valö, near Ingoo, an hour away from Helsinki to the west. For Georg Meggle the most beautiful place on earth, as he says.
Press Meetings in Berlin, Leipzig and Halle
(May 5, 2004) On it went on the next morning to the public library of Leipzig where we were set to meet for talks with the local press. The Duo Rubin was already there when I entered. I heard the piano from a distance. Michael Krebs from Cologne had already arrived, too. With him I would spend the next two days. Concerning the press meetings in general one can say that some people had really done a lot of work in the preparation, like the journalist Martin Forberg and also Michael Krebs. I went there without any expectations. This is what I had told myself right from the start: no expectations except good concerts, good peace work and support for Givat Haviva. I had no intention of convincing anybody from anything, except maybe the possibility of a peaceful future and the fact that Palestinians are human beings like all human beings.
In Berlin we had had another press meeting a couple of days earlier, where I met Ms. Schmidt for the first time. Dagmar Schmidt is from the Social Democratic Party and member of the German parliament, she is the chairwoman of Givat Haviva Germany and active in several committees which deal with Middle East affairs. She showed me a poem by Nazim Hikmet which she carries in her wallet. She talked well and was of the opinion that this work is not like a drop in the ocean, which hardly has any meaning, but part of a method to contribute to a reconciliation. She did not say this as a quote, but I had the impression that we were quite similar in this question. It just cannot go on like this politically. The meeting took place in the Northrhine Westfalia representational building in Berlin, exactly next to the new embassy of the United Arab Emirates, the expensive construction of which just had been finished. On the day before I had read an interview with the embassador in one of the Berlin newspapers. There were not many at the press meeting, mainly because the OSCE conference on anti-Semitism, on which I wrote an article, took place simultaneously. The press files were sent, at any rate, so it was a success in any case. Gesine Strempel was there, we had a long radio interview with her at the Broadcast Berlin Brandenburg (RBB) later on, and some other journalists.
Back to Leipzig: when I sat down at the table in the library, having a look at the tour flyer, pouring in coffee and looking forward to the things which were to happen, a couple of people installed TV projectors near the piano. The Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) had come, a TV station, to make a feature. Gabriella, Ithay, Michael, the librarian and me were chatting. A good basis in the cooperation of the Duo Rubin and me was that we could rely on each other in the substantial things. Before the final rehearsal in Berlin we had spotted the potential conflicts, carried out some of them, and afterwards all went very well, because we all have agreed on the fundamental things. It all was about the children and the future of a region which is shaken with crises.
The journalist from the MDR joined us when the Duo Rubin and I were standing together and when the thing was going to start. She began to talk and only looked at Gabriella and Ithay. "First I want you to play a piece, then I make an interview with the two of you." I thought there was something wrong with my ears. But there wasn't. She treated me like air. Suddenly I woke up completey. What to do? Should I start a scene here? No. Write it down later, I thought to myself, that is better. So I withdrew while the three went in the direction of the stage. The interview subsequent to the music was also held at this place and it was loud enough that I could hear Ithay's answers. He deliberately talked a lot about me. I had sensed right from the beginning that the Duo Rubin was also insulted by this behavior. For a second time this would probably not even happen, because we would reject such splittings altogether. This time we were taken by surprise. Who would expect such a thing? The journalist from the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk even had the nerve to step up to me after the whole thing, saying: "I will of course also say something about you." I guess she wanted to provoke me. Didn't work, though. "You do what you want", I said, without looking at her. I wanted her to go.
Shortly after the TV gang had departed Michael noticed such a strange leather case, as heavy as lead. We asked the friendly librarian, but she had never before seen the thing. Maybe a bomb, someone said. The librarian got pale. Suddenly nobody said anything anymore. I withdrew cautiously to the ground floor. This thing really did look somewhat suspicious. We almost called the police when somebody called the TV guys before. Alright, they had forgotton it. It really is amazing how forgetful the German media is.
In the press echo of the tour - about 20 articles and features - there were two groups: some people understood that the Duo Rubin and me were doing something TOGETHER in order to bring positive impulses to the camps of Israelis and Palestinians. Other people put Shalom-Salam under the rubric Israel and thus did not need any Palestinians. Rather extreme in this respect was the Jüdische Allgemeine which published the longest article about Shalom-Salam, on page three. That was on May 6. Title: "Shalom, Salam. The Israeli Hungarian Duo Rubin goes on tour through Germany for peace in the Middle East." Nix Palestinans. The Jüdische Allgemeine apparantly was of the opinion it can make peace alone :-) This was, anyway, not the fault of Ayala Goldmann, the journalist, who had made a two-hours telephone interview with me. She was fair enough. True, the first time I appeared at all was in the middle of the article, but then she characterizes my attitude in an appropriate way and also brought the poem "Amphibians" from the reading. The two colored photos, with which the article was rounded, show Ithay and Gabriella. Nix Palestinians. Again the editor, not Ayala. I saw the journalist at the press conference of the peace award to Mister Barenboim in the Sorat hotel six weeks later. She is half-Israeli and half-German, as she told me, so we had something in common. In the hotel we exchanged some words, but it was quite hectic in the hall. Moreover, I did not want to comment on the article in front of her that time.
Michael Krebs after the tour made a file for us with all the newspaper articles, many photos of the events and the speakers, the supporting address of Federal President Rau, the tour dates, infos on the program etc. He had the whole time been enthusiastic about the project, has traveled thousands of kilometers, found sponsors, wrote letters, sent invitations, made press contacts. Most of the things I read in the press were alright. The nicest one for me was the article "Plea for the mutual understanding between peoples. Duo Rubin and Anis Hamadeh present music and poetry in a concert" by Vera Timotijevic in the Bocholter Zeitung on May 17, 2004. On the photo we are standing together on stage after the concert. The mini-article "Three artists for peace" in the B.Z. (on May 26, with small colored photo of us three) was also nice, because on the same page there was an interview with Yoko Ono and a huge picture with John at the Amsterdam Bed Peace.
Other things in my opinion and the one of the Duo Rubin were doubtful. The two understood what it was that got on my nerves. It got on their nerves themselves that most of the newspapers only had them on the photo. It was meant to be a joint project. I didn't have anything against them being in the newspaper with their photo, on the contrary, may they appear often, but this number was about the togetherness. In this issue we agreed. Even though the Duo Rubin had initiated the whole thing and made a lot of preparations even before they met me. An unprecision, which we had committed ourselves, surely was the fact that we did not have a press photo of the three of us. I would have thought about that earlier, but for a long time it had not been clear to me that we would have organized press meetings at all.
Apart from that I regarded the press work simply as a part of the project and just did it. Normally I enter a discussion without prejudice and have a look first, but of course I am aware of the danger which the German press and the press in general can generate. When they don't like you they can harm you a big deal. I had a long talk with Jamal Karsli after having followed his story. He has nothing in common with the monster image that was painted of him for some time. He showed me a photo where he is together with the Israeli intellectuals Uri Davis and Ilan Pappe. Apart from that I have studied the press for years. From the analysis of about 400 newspaper articles mainly from the year 2003 a 108 pages study came into being six months ago, called "The Reproach of anti-Semitism in Critical Reflection". My critique of the press as a bearer of public action is manyfold and described in detail elsewhere, for example in the online essays and in the online book:
"Rock'n'Roll. Message from Ozzy Balou".
On the Road with Michael Krebs
On we rode to Halle, a second press meeting was scheduled in the Ulrich Church where we would appear one week later. Some journalists attended, I remember having spoken into a cassette recorder also. When we entered the room there was a huge pile with wrapped books on the table. I had a look and saw that it was the autobiography of Paul Spiegel. This man would come across our way some more times during the tour, yet not personally. As it happened, Michael Krebs knew Mister Spiegel by way of the Heinrich Heine Society in Düsseldorf which was also supporting our project.
With Michael Krebs from Cologne I got along well right from the beginning, like with most of the people who I met on tour. They were mostly hearty, to a wide extend tolerant people. This had to do with the magic of Ithay and Gabi, that was clear. After that Michael and me had lunch at a Chinese take-away in the pedestrian zone in Halle we dropped by a newspaper, which had not attended the meeting, and delivered a press file. At those things Michael is rather good. He is an open, merry, energetic character which brings him to his goal quickly. He is an original. We laughed together quite some times.
We drove in his Rover to Düsseldorf. His main occupation is hyperthermy research, or to make PR for it, respectively.
Hyperthermy means to overheat the human body for about one hour as a therapy against cancer. Later in the Stefan's in Berlin he showed me a docu film on his laptop. (That was an almost artistic contrast, such a subject matter in a fine café.) As it seems, it is about an alternative therapy which from the part of school medicine has recently been gaining more ground of acceptance. It would not be a magic therapy, Michael said on the highway, but sometimes it heals and often it eases the pain or delays the illness. He combines this work under the name MedicinePaintingMusic (MedizinMalereiMusik) with artistic performances. In this way he brings people together, like the painter Bernd Schwarzer, whom we would see later on, the Duo Rubin and the conductor Julius Ruedell from the Ensemble Ars Millennium. In those days Michael enthusiastically talked about the Grönemeyer Institute, which he obviously highly appreciated. Herbert, the famous singer? I asked. No, his brother. The professor of medicine. Ah, I see.
On such a long journey in the car you have time to exchange thoughts. Michael is not really a political individual, he is attracted by art much more. This is how he says it himself and it is no deficiency of his, because in my estimation he was doing something good for society and this is political enough. We both knew that we might have different views concerning Israel etc. But right from the beginning there had been respect and interest between us and we both lived spiritual values. Later I heard that he had seen people in the process of dying. He beyond doubt has developed a life-affirming mentality out of these experiences.
We talked about expulsions and Michael said that this is a bad thing, yet the German expelled people also have to accomodate with the facts. I answered that the Palestinians neither have committed the Shoah, nor have they invaded Poland. Michael said this was exactly what another Palestinian had told him in the same issue. He had a good laugh. I said: of course he told you the same. What else should he have told you?
Many people in Germany regard Paul Spiegel rather as an enlightener and someone in whose fate the German history is showing. Someone who talks about the injustice of the Nazi period in an emancipated way and who stands for the kind of tolerance which former Germany was lacking, which had led to terrible consequences. Others notice that Paul Spiegel regularly advocates repressive and violent conflict solutions whenever Jews or Israel are in question, be it against "the anti-Semites", "the terrorists" or the Iraqis. In the current internal conflict between the Central Council of the Jews in Germany and the liberal Jews in Germany he has also predominantly reacted in a repressive way. More than once he deterred me with his utterances. In a speech which he held in Berlin on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the riot in the Warsaw Ghetto and which the newspaper "Die Welt" printed in abridged form on April 30, 2003, Paul Spiegel speaks about a re-interpretation of the ten commandments and a "divine mission" of the Jews to guard human dignity even in darkest times and to put up a resistance, "if necessary even with armed force". The title aleady has a martial character: "Those who are fighting for death". Here is a quote:
"(...) The young Israeli pioneer who, with tanned, muscular, and pride-swollen breast, is cultivating his land and defending it with his gun - this is what had been the ideal which Zionism created in order to build up a counter-world to the one of the pale ghetto Jew who is bowing over the holy scripts, bearing patiently every strike of fate. (...) In the ghetto riot a very old Jewish motif shows. To talk in religious terms: in the sinking chaos of the Warsaw Ghetto of Jews the mission from the Sinai Mountain in a modern shape becomes visible again: It is us Jews who have to preserve the word of God and the dignity of man even in the darkest times. The resistance fighters from Warsaw have consciously or unconsciously re-interpreted God's moral commandment from the Sinai Mountain in their way and have poured it into a new form, which for the non-Jewish surroundings, in which he haved lived ever since, probably is the only understandable answer to an ancient problem: by being valiant with all our might, if necessary even with armed force, we cling to our divine mission, to our destiny. "
What is this talk about a "divine mission" and an armed force? I did not intend to go through this again, but it seemed that in the framework of our tour I could not escape it, was confronted with it. So I asked Michael if he could organize me a copy of this book by Paul Spiegel to have a look at what he was writing there. This is how it happened.
It was only after the tour that I found the time to read the book. It was interesting for me, because Spiegel's hometown
Warendorf is situated not far from Neubeckum, where I grew up and where the cars have a WAF for Warendorf on the plates. (Quite nearer though is Beckum, the town where Uri Avnery comes from.) Paul Spiegel, "Home again? Memories" (Ullstein 2003) was published in 2001 for the first time. The paperback comprises about 300 pages and several photographs. While this man's fate is recounted here in a way which is relevant as an historic document, one can also trace some irritations emitting from Spiegel.
It appears, for example, to be plausible and right, if Paul Spiegel because of the persecution of Jews in the Nazi dictatorship devotes himself to Jewish identity and that he promotes Judaism in Germany. Doubtful is, on the other hand, that this identity he found and writes about in his autobiography, mainly consists of clichès and generalisations like: "The Jews want to be accepted." (p. 170) or: "We Jews are no obtrusive guests or even cadgers." (p. 276) or: "We Jews have trust in Germany and its people despite anti-Semitism." (p. 248) or: "What can it be that has let us Jews unperturbedly strive after Germany? What do we love in this country and in its people?" (p. 84 f) or: "We Jews are a democratic little people" (p. 184). He writes about "a power which has fascinated and concerned me more and more: Judaism" (p. 110), "the Jewish cause" (pp. 269 and 271). Spiegel quotes individuals who do not fit the "clichè of the slim fearful Jew" (p. 185) and says: "Some people reproach us Jews with hysteria or persecution mania. (...) I believe that we Jews react sensitively and this is what the function of a good seismograph is." (p. 251) In whose name does Paul Spiegel speak here? It is conspicious that almost all of these clichès are passive: the Jews react upon something, they don't act. But as soon as awkward situations occur "we Jews" suddenly no longer exist: "I do not participate in these shows of the vanities, neither in pseudo-religious discussions like the one about the attitude of 'the Jews' towards homosexuality. I assume that the attitude of 'the' Jews will differ here from individual to individual just like everywhere in the society." (p. 278).
This fixation on Jews and Jewish substance sometimes reaches limits. Should Russian Jews be brought to Germany in order to increase the number of Jews in the German communities? Should Jews for reasons of... (I cannot even say this) marry among each other? "We must not reduce our Judaism to the formality of the descent from a Jewish mother. This would be a late victory for the Nazis. (...) And there is another point: to make Jews it needs Jews. (...) The purpose of my work in the community was, in short, to give the opportunity to our youth - like Gisèle and me had experienced it before -, to make other Jews' acquaintance: with the known happy results." (p. 150 f).
About Israel Paul Spiegel talks only in clichès, too. He calls Israel the "life insurance of the Jewish people." (p. 47 and 279). In view of the violence in Israel and Palestine this obviously is a glorification of reality. "We owed our support to the state, because Israel is the ancient home and the asylum for all Jews." (p. 219) - a glorification of the state. This conditionless loyalty is fictitiously shown in relativity in a few passages like: "This does not mean that I accept every political measure of Israel's" (p. 279). Yet such flourish is not filled with substance or examples in the whole book. There is nothing said about real policies and real political circumstances in the real Israel. A similar, unlimited loyal pathos showed in chiefs at work: the editor of the Allgemeine Wochenzeitung, Karl Marx, who employed Spiegel, asked him "one single question: 'Are you prepared to subordinate everything else to journalism?' My enthusiastic 'Certainly!' he commented laconically: 'I did not expect anything else.'" (p. 123).
Maybe all this would not be so bad, if it was not for the latent aggressions which are not questioned. "My father has taught me: do not take anything. By nobody. We Jews have taken enough. We must energetically and on time be valiant." (p. 96). When his father returned to Warendorf from the concentration camp and somebody said: "Ah, the Jew is back in town", the following thing happened: "My father did not even care for the usual flourish (...). Instead he gave a good thrashing to the anti-Semitic slanderer. The bystanders called the British MP, the patrol leader had them explain to him what happened and subsequently he asked my father laconically: 'Why did you not beat this guy to death?'" (p. 97). This is how the paragraph ends and the issue is closed, which suggests that the killing of a human being, who says "Ah, the Jew is back in town", is acceptable.
About his father Spiegel writes: "My father had always been himself completely. He did not need to make a show of his feelings. (...) Father was content with shaking my hand." (p. 90 f). This episode confused me more than any other. The father had survived Auschwitz, had come back to Warendorf and saw wife and boy for the first time after years. That such extreme situations can cause physical distances or other aggravations, seems plausible. And yet someone in such a situation would wish to take in the arm and to be taken in the arm, to touch and be touched. They were alive! The family reunited after years of highest pain and huge losses! Is it necessary there to re-interpret the weaknesses of the father (after whom by right a street in Warendorf was named) to inner greatness? To make a show of his feelings, to be himself completely. This was obviously not quite so. For what the glorification? You just move away from the thing and don't get closer to it.
Spiegel writes that he does not hold the hatred of Jews to be the primary cause of the fanatical support for Hitler, but a deep feeling of insecurity and need for protection and safety. He calls Hitlerism a fear movement (p. 171). Yet he cannot recognize the feeling of insecurity and the strong need for protection and safety in Israel and also in German Jews as a source of ideologisation. He writes that the looking away of the population was the presupposition for the unfolding of criminal energy (p. 30), and this very looking away is what human rights activists are criticizing, when for example the frontal media selects the news about Israel and when happenings by routine are presented in a way that "the existance of Israel" is not endangered, which automatically de-values the existance of others.
What is the Cause of Terror?
(May 11, 2004) "What is the Cause of Terror?" This question divides two worlds. In the car from Halle to Vreden, circa 470 kilometers, I talked with Ithay about it, after having discussed "the thing" for a while. I told him my thesis: there are people who think that terror originates in situations of oppression and there are other people who suppose a multitude of causes for terror. Radicalisation, for instance, could lead to terror, or hostility. The longing for power, maybe. Exaggerated religiosity or ideology. Supporting the thesis that generally terror is caused by oppression is, for example, the fact that suicide attacks empirically visible and regularly spring from situations of oppression, like occupation. In Palestine, in Iraq, in Chechenia. Such assaults are meant to draw the attention to a hopeless situation. This does not justify them, but one cannot ignore this aspect if one wants to understand the situation. Even Paul Spiegel writes this, certainly referring to the own group: concerning the assault of Herschel Grynszpan on November 7, 1938, on the occasion of the deportation of the Polish Jews Spiegel analyses that Grynszpan attempted "to draw the attention to the fate of the deported with a spectacular assault. (...) The Nazis had only waited (...) for such a pretext." (Home again, p. 28).
Is there a justification to terror? This provocative question has been posed publically by Georg Meggle, in his mentioned article and in the discussion with Ted Honderich in the "Leipzig Sunday Talks". A shocking question, some may think on first glance. Yet behind it there is the problem of the just war. Meggle questions the justification of, for instance, UN (also US) interventions. For wars partly are subsumed under his concept of terror. In this concept there are several elements: the act (e.g. activation of a bomb), an actor (terrorist), a violence addressee (e.g. visitor of a cafè), a terror addressee (e.g. civil population), a final addressee (government) and a purposeful effect (e.g. release of prisoners) (See the essay "Terror& Counter-Terror, p. 34). Meggle writes: "The ethics of terror are a special case of the ethics of violence and of war." (p. 35). Usually one would think of terror in terms of certain constellations: exaggerated violence, addressed to innoscents, in the end against a stately order. It is battled by the state who owns the monopoly on violence. The concept of "state terrorism", which in the international discourse does have a justification, makes clear that an exaggerated violence and one which is (also) addressed to innoscents can also spring from stately orders. But do states also get oppressed, so that they make terror? I think so. It is a different kind of oppression, a lack of freedom in the powerful by reason of their fears of loss.
All this is theory. Not grey theory, but theory. We surely need it to elaborate the universal values of the twenty-first century. The Duo Rubin and me did not immediately need it for the Shalom-Salam tour. We made our work of mutual understanding in a practical way. Spontaneously I asked Ithay: "What do you think: if you were the president of Israel and I were the president of Palestine, would there be peace?" Not that we had any real ambitions in this department, this was surely not the case. I meant something different, something principal. Ithay thought about it for a while, not long, then he said yes. Without further comments. Just yes. I looked out of the car window into the landscape and thought that he was right. Actually, the whole tour would have been no use had it been otherwise.